Tom Craig and Tom Ward in Conversation
WHAT IS AVATAR THERAPY?
AVATAR therapy is a new talking therapy which aims to reduce the distress that can be experienced when hearing voices, using dialogue with an image or “avatar” of the distressing voice on a computer.
ORIGINS OF AVATAR THERAPY
AVATAR therapy was invented by Professor Julian Leff and Professor Mark Huckvale in 2008 at University College London.
A small pilot study of AVATAR therapy with 26 participants was conducted, funded by the National Institute for Health Research.
The results were promising; participants reported a significant reduction in the frequency, distress, omnipotence and malevolence of their voice.
To read more about the pilot study, click here.
Larger studies were needed to test AVATAR therapy.
A larger, randomised controlled trial of AVATAR therapy funded by the Wellcome Trust was conducted by researchers at King’s College London in the South London and Maudsley NHS trust.
150 participants were assigned to receive 7 weeks of AVATAR therapy or supportive counselling. Results showed that AVATAR therapy was more effective 12 weeks after therapy (but not at 24 weeks' follow up) in reducing the severity of participants’ voices compared to supportive counselling.
You can read more about AVATAR1 here.
The current study, again funded by the Wellcome Trust, aims to further test the effectiveness of AVATAR therapy in a wider variety of NHS settings across England and Scotland. If shown to be effective, this will help to prepare for wider implementation in clinical services.
For more details about taking part in AVATAR2, click here.
To read our study protocol, click here.
HOW WE BUILD
During the first AVATAR therapy session, the therapist asks the person questions about the distressing voice they hear, to understand how it sounds and what it might look like. The therapist and the person then work together using computer software to recreate these qualities in a digital representation of the voice called an "avatar".
WHAT THE THERAPY
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Each session begins with some time talking with just the therapist.